Month: May 2016

Grieving Parents’ Lawsuit Exposes Lack of Concern, Misplaced Priorities within NCAA

The Washington Times recently published an in-depth article into the death of Derek Sheely, a fullback at Frostburg State University who collapsed during football practice and never regained consciousness. The official cause of death was traumatic brain injury.

Until an email arrived from a John Doe who identified himself as a teammate of Derek’s, the family thought the death was a tragic accident. John Doe told of negligence by Frostburg coaches, staff and a head coach who belittled Derek for complaining of a headache moments before he collapsed. A concussion test was never performed on Derek who had a head injury bandaged four times from the initial injury two days prior to his collapse.

All of this equals a tragedy but the lack of action by the university and NCAA catapult this to a tragedy that is unbelievable and could readily have been prevented. Derek’s mother wrote a letter to the president of the NCAA and received a four-paragraph reply of sympathies, and then coldly directed her to the organization’s health and safety website. The university promised an inquiry but at press time, no players on the field that day had been contacted for questioning by the school or NCAA. The head coach who told Derek to stop griping was revealed to have a slew of charges from drugs, and trespassing to driving under the influence. Video of the Derek collapsing has disappeared.

Most troubling is the climate around football and injuries. The motto of Frostburg’s team policy in 2011 was “great champions can distinguish between pain and injury.” Players who complained of injury had to clean the field after practice. The NCAA’s “bible” of regulations lists such details as logo size, how big a notecard may be and mentions recruits 495 times; concussions are given 195 words. In a deposition this year in an unrelated federal lawsuit, former NCAA director of health and safety admitted the concussion rule

ncaa class action

NCAA Concussion Lawsuits Filed

Research linking the repeated head injuries sustained in contact sports to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has existed for decades, however, it was thought to only affect boxers, who take repeated direct hits to the head during a fight. The past decade has seen advances in our understanding of CTE that show a direct link between other contact sports like football and CTE.

Despite the clear link between sports and CTE, many sports organizations like The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have failed to implement appropriate safety protocols and to properly educate players on the risks of CTE.

This week, Raizner Slania filed six class action lawsuits asserting concussion claims against The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and several Division 1 universities and athletics conferences for failing to implement proper safety protocols and for concealing the dangers of concussions to student-athletes. The classes of players for whom we filed suit including former athletes from Penn State University, Auburn University, University of Georgia, University of Oregon, University of Utah and Vanderbilt University.

These NCAA concussion lawsuits come just weeks after an appeals court upheld a settlement that provides retired NFL football players with compensation for brain injuries sustained during play. While these lawsuits and the NFL affirmation aim to compensate injured players, they are also establishing a legal responsibility for sports organizations to take care of their players. Despite the advances that have recently been made for former NFL players, however, the NCAA has remained recalcitrant in providing real relief to the young men and women who trusted this organization to look out for them.

Our firm represents many former athletes from a number of Division 1 and other major athletic programs. We expect that additional suits will be filed over the coming weeks and months, and will provide updates on the litigation on our blog and through our Facebook and Twitter pages.

NCAA Concussion Lawyers

If you or a loved one experienced brain trauma after suffering a head injury while playing for an NCAA regulated team or other college sports organization, please contact the attorneys at Raizner Slania. Our consultations are free and confidential, and we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you owe us nothing unless we help you obtain compensation.

NCAA Injury Report of Held Players Documents the Number of Concussions Sustained by Collegiate released the injury report for this weekend’s college football teams and the number of concussions is staggering. The information from the injury reports is compiled from information released by the universities.

The following teams have reported concussions and will hold players due to the diagnosis:’

· Air Force Falcons
· Alabama Crimson Tide
· Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
· Arizona Wildcats
· Colorado State Rams
· Florida State Seminoles
· Georgia State Panthers
· Houston Cougars
· Indiana Hoosiers
· Louisiana State Tigers
· Marshall Thundering Herd
· Maryland Terrapins
· Mississippi State Bulldogs
· Navy Midshipmen
· Nevada Wolf Pack
· Northern Illinois Huskies
· Oregon Ducks
· South Carolina Gamecocks
· UCLA Bruins
· UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
· Utah Utes
· Wake Forest Demon Deacons
· West Virginia Mountaineers

If you or someone you love played football in the NCAA and is now suffering from long-term brain injury symptoms, please contact the attorneys at Raizner Slania.

Why the NCAA Has Greater Liability than the NFL

Although at the onset, the liability of the NCAA concerning head injuries seems to be similar to that of the NFL, one detail is significant: unlike their professional counterparts, student-athletes do not have the ability to negotiate labor practices. NCAA is supposed to be party protecting the student-athletes, while NFL players have employers and a union to look out for their interests.  This increased responsibility to student athletes means the NCAA is legally responsible in the courts when they fail to protect athlete safety, as they unfortunately have done for so many years.

The crux of the argument for many former student-athletes is the painstaking detail the NCAA goes into for all aspects of sports- from regulating the type of cream cheese athletes are allowed to how recruits can be contacted; the NCAA has a regulation on everything but concussion management. One former player pointed out the lack of NCAA attention when discussing his medical bills. Had a booster paid the medical bills, sanctions would have resulted.

Emails included as evidence in one lawsuit against the NCAA exhibit their lack of concern for head injuries. When asked if concussion recommendations at the youth level exceeded what was required at the college level, the director of health and safety replied, “”Well since we don’t currently require anything all steps are higher than ours.”

From 2004-2009, the NCAA injury reports estimate more than 16,000 football players suffered concussions. In addition to that large number of potentially life-changing injuries, the NCAA provided partial funding for head injury research and knew the results as early as 2003.

The NCAA has a duty to protect student-athletes. The association gains financially each year from these players yet provides nothing after they graduate and resume normal life. The attempt to shift the development of concussion protocols to individual schools is nothing more than an attempt to avoid responsibility.

NFL Tragedy May Have Roots in Player’s Concussion History

Jovan Belcher was a NCAA football player who then moved on to play in the NFL as a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. He experienced the lows and highs of being a pro athlete. Many of his friends are now recounting the days leading up to his last act of murdering his girlfriend then committing suicide in front of the team’s coach and general manager.

A few weeks before the events of December 1, 2012, Belcher had played a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He had one notable violent tackle that caused him to collect himself for a moment while on the ground. He finished playing the game.

In the days following that tackle, something was off. Friends and former teammates describe forgetfulness, headaches and rushes of emotional anger. A former teammate said Belcher was convinced he’d suffered concussions during his last year of play. College teammates also recounted times he had suffered concussions.

Although none of this can soothe or remedy the tragic events of that day, Belcher’s history provides insight into his possible mindset. Long-term head injuries can cause loss of impulse control, irritability, depression and paranoia along with suicidal thoughts. Football has long been known as a dangerous sport, however, the long-term brain damage effects have not been widely known. It appears the NFL knew about these dangers many years before there was any action to minimize risks for players. In this regard, the NCAA has unfortunately followed the NFL’s lead – or tragic lack of leadership.

If you or someone you love has suffered long-term brain damage from participating on an NCAA team, please contact the attorneys at Raizner Slania.

NCAA Concussion Injury

NFL Player’s Body Exhumed after Suicide; Brain to be Tested for CTE

The body of Jovan Belcher has been exhumed in Long Island, New York, in order to perform tests on his brain to look for signs of CTE.  It is not known where the body was being examined.

Belcher shot his girlfriend and mother of his three-month-old daughter before committing suicide. Despite the body being buried for a year, a leading CTE forensic pathologist who has performed two similar procedures said there is a 50-50 chance that the study will yield results.

CTE is a degenerative disease found in athletes with repeated head trauma and injury. The brain develops an abnormal protein called tau that builds up and strangles brain cells in areas that control memory, emotions and other functions. Symptoms of CTE range from memory loss and decision-making issues to suicidal thoughts and erratic, unpredictable behavior.

Belcher was a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs and played in more than 50 games for the organization. He played in the NCAA for the University of Maine and started in all 45 games of his four-year career. Close friends spoke to Bleacher Report journalists about the multiple concussions he received in his career and the symptoms he exhibited in the weeks leading up to the tragic events.

CTE and the NFL’s knowledge of the long-term effects of head trauma recently prompted the settling of a class action suit against the organization brought on by former players. The $765 million agreement involved 4,500 plaintiffs. The focus has now shifted to the NCAA and their lack of protocol for head injury management. One difference between the NFL and NCAA liability is the profit and not for profit nature of the organizations. The NCAA is a non-profit organization netting an average of $700 million per year from sports involving student-athletes who receive zero compensation. NFL professional athletes work under negotiations of contracts and benefits such as health coverage and workers compensation.